Grammy-winning pop-rock singer Peter Cetera opened Saturday’s clear-skies Our Hospice of South Central Indiana concert with a love song about the pain of loneliness.
With his 1992 hit, “Restless Heart,” he crooned: “’Cause the hardest part is being alone. With my restless heart. Hmmm, with my restless heart.”
But Cetera was hardly alone amid an estimated crowd of 8,000 at Mill Race Park in Columbus. And there was plenty of love to go around.
“Are you there?” he asked the audience after the opening song.
They were, and they responded loudly.
The audience was rewarded with one of Cetera’s hit singles from his time with the rock group Chicago, “Baby, What a Big Surprise,” released in 1977.
Then it was back to hits from Cetera’s solo career, with “One Good Woman” from 1988 and “Glory of Love” from 1986.
Between songs, there was time to have fun with the crowd.
“Somebody said we better put a gate up so he doesn’t fall,” Cetera joked of the Mill Race Amphitheater railing. “My walker’s in the back.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer looked comfortable sporting a dark shirt and dark loafers but wore a bright smile before a crowd of cellphone photographers and videographers in Mill Race Park in Columbus.
Indianapolis-based cover band LemonWheel got the night off to an enjoyable start, performing familiar songs from artists such as Journey and Bruno Mars.
But, of course, Cetera was the main attraction.
During a brief, preconcert meet-and-greet at Hotel Indigo, Lorraine Low of Columbus put the Grammy-winning singer in a good mood by bringing the 1969 debut album of his original group, Chicago Transit Authority, which was quickly shortened to Chicago.
Low saw the group open in May 11, 1969, for guitarist Jimi Hendrix at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis. That’s all it took for Cetera to break into laughter after he gave Low a hug.
“The crowd hated us,” he said, adding that people wanted to see Hendrix. “They booed us and were throwing things.”
Low remembered that Hendrix then kept his performance short, with an eight-song appearance, angrily telling fans, “You insulted my friends.”
But Saturday night, Cetera was the headliner, and fans such as Linda Miller of Cincinnati were happy about that.
Miller, a member of Cetera’s fan club, is now an acquaintance of the singer and his band, partly because she sees about a dozen of their shows each year.
The previous night, she was among about 2,000 people catching Cetera’s concert at a casino in New Buffalo, Mich.
And then she drove to Columbus, all the while listening to her Peter Cetera station on her Padora app.
“He is enjoying this so much these days,” said Miller, who first met the singer in 2005. “You can tell he’s having so much fun on stage.”
He seemed relaxed and loose while meeting fans during the meet-and-greet event, allowing Our Hospice to get photos of him with musical admirers.
During the session, Cetera signed local artist Donna Rosenberg’s painting “30 Years of Saturdays in the Park: Inspiration Valley,” displayed in the Hotel Indigo lobby. The acrylic work is being auctioned online until Sept. 12 to benefit hospice’s work to help those with life limiting illnesses.
The work originally was valued at $1,500. But Rosenberg figures the singer’s signature might boost that value a bit.
The Hospice concert was the first in at least five years to begin under beautiful sunny skies after two rainouts and one concert being moved indoors.
“This is a real treat,” Our Hospice president Laura Hurt said of the weather, with temperatures in the mid-70s. “And that’s especially so since we struggled so much the past several years.”
Sandy Carmichael, the hospice’s former leader, was among fans attending the concert. She recalled that the first concert she ever attended was to see Cetera and Chicago perform in 1971.
“I thought it was the best thing I had ever been to,” Carmichael said.
Now 45 years later, it was the perfect time for an encore.